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The 2016 FIA World Touring Car Championship will reach the halfway point in Moscow with the sixth meeting of the season. After winning both races at the Nürburgring in Germany, Citroën and José María López will be looking to further extend their advantage over their competitors. Yvan Muller, meanwhile, will be hoping to turn his fortunes around as he returns to a circuit where he won in 2015.

The Nürburgring weekend, considered the highlight of the FIA WTCC season, provided the stiffest of challenges. José María López reigned supreme at the Nordschleife, picking up maximum points and opening up a sizeable lead at the top of the World Championship standings. After five rounds, the Argentine driver is now 69 points ahead of his nearest rival, which means he is likely to leave Russia as championship leader.

The performances of the two best C-Elysée WTCCs in each race also boosted Citroën’s advantage in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. However, its 69-point lead is more fragile than Pechito’s, as a team can score up to 105 points in a single weekend. The Citroën Total team is therefore approaching the next challenge with humility.

“My main goal will be to finish both races in the points, which I have never managed to do at this circuit,” explains José María López. “Moscow Raceway is not an easy circuit. The course is very slow and the surface is abrasive, quickly wearing down your tyres. You’re always fighting against understeering. There are real overtaking opportunities, particularly in the reverse-grid race.”

“I’m in an enviable position in the World Championship, but I’m not going to relax. It’s not in my nature. I’ll be as motivated and invested in the team’s work as ever. With five race wins already this year, I also have to be clear-sighted. I won’t feel that I have to take every single risk in the races,” the reigning World Champion added.

In 2015, the star of the show at the Moscow Raceway was Muller. He won pole position, before emerging victorious in race one, in which he also clocked the fastest lap. The man from Alsace sees that as a good omen as he searches for his first win of 2016.

“I think this circuit is well-suited to the FIA WTCC. At the end of the straight section after turn no.14, we go into a big bend at 240km/h. That’s the first opportunity to overtake. Failing that, it’s still possible to overtake on turn number one. It’s a pretty nice combination for the drivers,” says Muller. “I think we’ve got a good chance here, and personally I would love to get back on the podium. My main concern is the ballast. Once again, we’ll be carrying more weight than our rivals, and that will have a big impact on the wear of our front tyres.”

By virtue of their performances in Hungary, Morocco and Germany, the Citroën C-Elysée WTCCs will be carrying 80kg of ballast, as opposed to 30kg for the Hondas, 20kg for the Ladas, and no extra weight for the Chevrolets and Volvos.

Having been the best performing manufacturer in MAC3 so far this season, Citroën will opt for a change of strategy this time around. López and Muller will be joined not by Mehdi Bennani, who provided effective support in the first five meetings, but by Tom Chilton. After spending the first part of the season getting to grips with the Citroën C-Elysée WTCC, the SLR driver is in fine form, following a double podium at the Nürburgring.

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